Last September, when he was running for office, President Barack Obama made a promise that families making under $250,000 wouldn’t see a tax increase of any kind.
Now Congress and the White House are using a new tax on cigarettes and tobacco products to balance federal spending, but even in spite of the good intentions of the tax to dissuade users from smoking, the timing puts unnecessary financial pressure on those who can’t kick the habit.
While no one can argue against the health risks that cigarettes pose, another tax increase for tobacco during this economic downturn will pose a tough decision to the average smoker who is middle or working class. The smoker can try to quit or keep smoking at the cost of devoting a bigger part of his or her budget to tobacco where it would have previously gone to gasoline, groceries or used toward a savings account.
While the tax is supposed to benefit health care by funding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, it ends up placing an additional burden on families with children. On the list of priorities, a “sin tax” benefiting health care in the future doesn’t trump the problems that the country faces right now.
The health risks of smoking have been addressed with ad campaigns from nonprofit organizations like the Ad Council and the American Legacy Foundation through its widespread “truth” anti-youth smoking campaign. While the numbers of those who are smoking may decrease as prices go up, it won’t be without the strain on a smoker’s wallet at a time when money spent on tobacco already seems like a luxury.
Features editor Chance Welch for the editorial board.